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Burma Arrests Opposition Leaders

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

The Burmese military junta has arrested several pro-democracy leaders, including Khun Htun Oo, the chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. Authorities also prohibited the United Nationalities Alliance, Burma's leading coalition of pro-democracy ethnic political parties, from commemorating Union Day on February 12th. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says, "These actions further demonstrate the junta's rejection of genuine national reconciliation as well as its disregard for the well-being of the Burmese people and the views of the international community."

Earlier this month, Burmese leaders extended for one year the house arrest of National League of Democracy Vice Chairman U Tin Oo. This comes on the heels of the junta's November 2004 extension of the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi for another year.

Burma's military junta is also preparing to restart a convention to draft a constitution. But the U.S. and most Western governments have dismissed this process as a sham by the Burmese military rulers who refused to accept the 1990 election victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

The U.S. has continued to call on Burma's military junta to respect the fundamental rights of the Burmese people and permit a democratic process to go forward. The U.S. "cannot rest until every person living in a 'fear society' has finally won their freedom," says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

"America stands with oppressed people on every continent -- in Cuba, and Burma, and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe. The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the 'town square test:' if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society."

The Burmese people deserve to be free from tyranny. It is time for the military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally. The National League for Democracy should be allowed to re-open its offices nationwide and work toward establishing national reconciliation and democracy in Burma.